Given the unpredictability associated with UPSC CSE, one must realize that mains stage of the exam should be aimed at mastering the art of presenting one’s viewpoints and thoughts succinctly in writing.
The main Examination is intended to assess the overall intellectual traits and depth of understanding of candidates rather than merely the range of their information and memory. The questions will be such as to test a candidate’s general awareness of a variety of subjects, basic understanding of all relevant issues, and ability to analyze, and take a view on conflicting socio-economic goals, objectives and demands. The candidates must give relevant, meaningful and succinct answers.
Many a time aspirants complain that they work hard, read so much, every year write mains, yet they fail to qualify for the Interview. But they fail to understand the very basic that it is one thing to have knowledge of a particular issue and quite different to put that opinion or knowledge concisely in paper and that too in time bound manner. And this is what this write up tries to address- how to write meaningful, relevant and succinct answers?
Important aspects of answer writing: To begin with every aspirant should have clarity and have a plan in place regarding how much time they are going to contribute to each question (both in terms of thinking and writing down of the answer). It is always a good investment if, before starting to write an answer, one spends a minute or two to understand the required dimensions and framing the skeleton of the answer. Then one can write a logical and flowing answer in the remaining time. Few things that should be kept in mind are as follows:
- Self-evident plan: In order to ensure good flow and progression, there is a need to logically segmentize the answer. For this aspirant has to keep in mind the following:
- Clarity of the thought process
- The examiner should get bird’s eye clarity about how the answer is going to unfold.
- There should be continuity and linkage between different parts.
- Answering the ‘question’ rather than a ‘topic’: aspirant should address the ‘focus’ of the question. A common mistake committed by aspirants is that they cherry-pick familiar words/ topics and fill pages on that and then expect to score well. It is worth noting that one can’t blindly write whatever one knows on a topic. MAXIMUM ATTENTION SHOULD BE DEVOTED TO CORE CONTENT OF THE QUESTION. The answer should reflect that the aspirant has understood the question and has catered to its demands. Rather than beating around the bush, aspirant should directly hit the nail on the head.
- Proportionality: one common mistake often committed is that aspirant write too much about something or write too little. Sometimes there is inadequate intro or conclusion and sometimes too excessive. This leads to abruptness in starting or ending of the answer. Aspirants often keep repeating the same theme or dimension which leads to a lop-sided answer. ANSWER SHOULD HAVE A GOOD BUT CONCISE ‘FIRST IMPRESSION’ AND ‘PARTING IMPACT’.
- Visual appeal: answer should be appealing enough to read. This requires neat hand writing, uncluttered presentation, underlining of key content (not to be overdone), heading of sub-parts, diagrams/ flow-charts. Aspirant should ensure that the examiner reads the strongest arguments present in the answer.
- Creative input: answer should consist of inter-topic linkages, catchy terms, facts and figures, case studies/ illustrations/ anecdotes. The key here is to demonstrate one’s practical awareness, application capabilities. In order to ensure this the best exercise is that, “aspirant should think what he/she can write in the answer which is relevant to the question asked but is from some other topic which others won’t find as obvious part of the answer”.
- Expressions: there should be a balance between one’s own view points on one hand and technical jargons, research studies, expert views on the other hand. In other words it should neither appear as too bookish nor as layman like. The key here is to use jargons, expert views, facts/ figures to highlight the crux of the issue that is being addressed. Rest of the answer should be in one’s own yet impactful language.
- Concise and thoroughness: answer should be written in such a way that it concise and consists of thoughtfully framed sentences and at the same time conveys a lot. The answer should not be ambiguous, un wielding or meaningless.
- Engaging with the reference statement mentioned in the question: Many a times a question consists of a statement. In this case, rather than going around in circles one has to quickly come to the statement at first opportunity. If possible, who said the statement, when and in what context should be mentioned. This will take the answer to a different orbit. IT IS ALWAYS BEETER TO CONCLUDE WITH A REFERENCE TO THE ‘QUESTION STATEMENT’.
- Addressing the specific requirement of the question: the specific requirement is indirectly indicated by a concluding word. Eg: discuss, elucidate, critically examine. The meaning of each of these words is different and each of them has a different demand that needs to be addressed.
- ELUCIDATE/ EXPLAIN: one has to agree with the statement and just explain it through inputs. This type of question generally is asked in relation to a complex statement.
- ELABORATE/ SUBSTANTIATE: in this case also one has to agree with the statement and further support as to how it holds true by giving illustrations, expert views, fact and figures.
- DISCUSS: here the viewpoints of scholars, experts regarding the issue at hand should be mentioned. The viewpoints can be both against and for the motion. It is always better to offer a concluding observation that emerges from the discussion.
- COMMENT/ EXAMINE/ DO YOU AGREE: in this case one has to go one step forward as compared to “discuss” and present their own view/ opinion. The examiner wants to know how they feel in the light of the issue asked and whether they agree and why and if they don’t then why not.
- CRTICALLY EXAMINE/ CRITICALLY EVALUATE: here the anti-viewpoint is to be brought forward. In order to address such a question firstly the opinion/ viewpoint of the critics has to be mentioned and examined and then one’s own concluding remark on the basis of that examination has to be brought out.
DAILY MAINS MINI TEST
'Revise, Practice & Improve' and stay ahead of the curve with IASGYAN’s Daily Mains Mini Test Programme known for its codified objective criteria, uniform standards and timely, constructive, personalised and practical inputs on all aspects of answer writing. It has the following features:
- Daily one question is uploaded by 10: 00 am with equal coverage of the four GS papers. Both static and dynamic portions are covered.
- Weekly one essay is uploaded on Sunday.
- Aspirants need to upload hand-written answer by 6:00 pm.
- Thereafter, evaluation is conducted by experts who assess in a professional manner and provide personalised feedback.
- Key points to be incorporated in the answers are also shared.
- Model answers are provided the same day.
MAINS ANSWER WRITING
Apti Plus through its Mains Program offers that kind of conducive 360-degree platform which meets each and every requirement of the 'LEARN, REVISE & PRACTICE, TEST, IMPROVE, SUCCEED' mantra. One can 'Revise, Practice & Improve' and stay ahead of the curve with Mains Answer Writing Evaluation Programme known for its codified objective criteria, uniform standards and timely, constructive, personalised and practical inputs on all aspects of answer writing. The programme aims to develop an analytical perspective in aspirants and ensure continuous improvement using evaluation, feedback and personal mentorship. One-to-one personalised mentorship and trusted and expert guidance enables the aspirants to get their performance evaluated anytime from anywhere and helps them learn at their own pace.
Features of this Program:
- Monthly 20 answers
- Answer evaluation by experts
- Get evaluated answers within 48 hours with personalized feedback
- Source of question can be from anywhere
- Monthly Fees: Rs.800/-
- 3 Months Fees: Rs. 2000/- (total 60 answers)
- 100% Refund Policy (if not satisfied)
APTI PLUS Answer evaluation is known for:
- Codified objective critieria
- Evaluation on uniform standards
- Constructive suggestions
- Timely, personalized and practical inputs on all aspects of answer writing
- Experts who assess answers in a professional manner
- Timely evaluation and feedback
MAINS TEST SERIES
Mains Test series has been designed so as to ensure not only content development and enhanced answer writing skills for the aspirants but also to enable them to develop multi-dimensional analytical perspective across all themes. The mantra of ‘LEARN-REVISE-TEST-SUCCEED’ is followed. Programme focuses on building a strong foundation by starting from scratch and then achieving a step-by-step systematic and thorough coverage of the entire syllabus of the Main Exam. Tests have been meticulously structured to ensure that aspirants not only grasp the demand of UPSC Main Exam but are also aided in the preparation of Prelim Test. It provides them with a discipline required during the coming weeks, by developing deeper understanding of the topics mentioned in the General Studies syllabus. It will help aspirants master the art of writing answers such as structure and presentation, learn how to present knowledge with contextual, structural and language competency, understand the key words/context, approach towards attempting question, understand their current preparedness and identify their strengths and weaknesses and work upon them in a concerted manner.
Course Format and Coverage:
- Course Validity: 365 days
- There will be 20 tests.
- There will be 12 sectional tests covering the entire ambit of civil services examination syllabus.
- There will be 8 full length tests.
Features of Test Series Program:
- A clear-cut detailed schedule of the Tests.
- Sectional Tests to ensure that aspirants can cover each subject comprehensively in sufficient time and can evaluate his/her performance through the tests.
- Full Length Mock Tests to evaluate the overall preparation level.
- Detailed analysis of Tests based on Level of Difficulty making it easier for aspirants to evaluate their performance that strategize their preparation accordingly.
- Learn the key point of syllabus and be disciplined in your preparation.
- Read the syllabus thoroughly.
- Analyze the previous year papers.
- Keep the sources limited.
- Periodic revision is a must.
- Do not attempt tests without preparation.
- Sufficient time allocation for answer writing (via mocks).
- Allocate the months and schedule your days and weeks well in advance.
What Aspirants Should Do?
- Whatever that you read, try to summarize in your own words at the end of the day.
- Dedicate an hour or two each day to practice answer writing.
- Follow daily current affairs from a limited source to keep oneself updated.
- Religiously and consistently follow one source of newspaper daily.
- Pick up one test paper, attempt it and read all the solutions, highlighting the important ones.
- This will help you in memorizing the content as well as condition you to attempt appropriate number of questions. Further, these tests would also add up as your notes.
- Clarity regarding how much time they are going to contribute to each question (both in terms of thinking and writing down of the answer).
- Continuity and linkage between different parts.
- Answering the ‘question’ rather than a ‘topic’
- Uncluttered presentation, underlining of key content, heading of sub-parts, diagrams/ flow-charts.
- Inter-topic linkages, catchy terms, facts and figures, case studies/ illustrations/ anecdotes.
- Balance between one’s own view points on one hand and technical jargons, research studies, expert views on the other hand.
Some Frequently Asked Questions by the aspirants:
- How to improve answer writing skill?
Ans. The one and only answer is PRACTICE. Make answer writing a daily routine. And the best source for it is previous year papers. But please do not substitute the core preparation with answer writing. Answer writing without solid content is meaningless.
- Can I write the answer in point format or paragraph format?
Ans. It should depend upon the type of question asked. But never write any answer only in point format. The introduction and conclusion should be in para format.
- How to write within the word limit?
Ans. There are two things that aspirants shall follow. First is practice and second is answering to the demand of the question- neither more nor less!!
- Can I use pen or pencil or multi- colored pens for answer writing?
Ans. It varies from individual to individual. However, it is adviced that use of multi colored pens is avoided. Aspirant at the most should use pen and pencil. Further, there is no need to draw diagrams with scale. But ensure they are readable or legible.
Aspirants have been provided with basic guidelines so that they inculcate an art of answer writing which enables them to SELL their answer and they are able to tell the examiner, “WHAT’S DIFFERENT IN ME” & “WHAT ARE MY CORE IDEAS ON THAT QUESTION”. Lastly, nothing substitutes good content and this requires a solid preparation, hard work and dedication…